Ike Turner performing at the Long Beach Blues Festival in 1996
|Izear Luster Turner, Jr.|
|Ike Wister Turner
November 5, 1931|
Clarksdale, Mississippi, US
|Died||December 12, 2007
San Marcos, California, US
|Genres||R&B, Memphis blues, soul blues, blues rock, rock and roll, funk|
|Musician, songwriter, record producer, arranger, bandleader, talent scout|
|Instruments||Guitar, piano, vocals|
|Labels||Chess, Cobra, Flair, King, Modern/RPM, Sun, United Artists,|
|Tina Turner, the Ikettes, Kings of Rhythm|
Izear Luster "Ike" Turner, Jr. (November 5, 1931 - December 12, 2007) was an American musician, bandleader, songwriter, arranger, talent scout, and record producer. An early pioneer of fifties rock and roll, he is most popularly known for his work in the 1960s and 1970s with his then-wife Tina Turner in the Ike & Tina Turner Revue.
Turner began playing piano and guitar when he was eight, forming his group, the Kings of Rhythm, as a teenager. He employed the group as his backing band for the rest of his life. His first recording, "Rocket 88", credited to "Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats", in 1951 is considered a contender for "first rock and roll song". Relocating to St. Louis, Missouri, in 1954, he built the Kings into one of the most renowned acts on the local club circuit. There he met singer Anna Mae Bullock, who he renamed Tina Turner, forming the Ike & Tina Turner Revue, which over the course of the sixties became a soul/rock crossover success.
Turner recorded for many of the key R&B record labels of the 1950s and 1960s, including Chess, Modern, Trumpet, Flair and Sue. With the Ike & Tina Turner Revue, he graduated to larger labels Blue Thumb and United Artists. Throughout his career Turner won two Grammy Awards and was nominated for three others. With his former wife, Turner was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991 and in 2001 was inducted into the St. Louis Walk of Fame.
Stories by Tina Turner of domestic violence by Ike, published in her autobiography I, Tina and included in its film adaptation What's Love Got to Do with It, coupled with his cocaine addiction, impacted Ike Turner's career in the 1980s and 1990s. Addicted to cocaine and crack for at least 15 years, Turner was convicted of drug offenses, serving seventeen months in prison between July 1989 and 1991. He spent the rest of the 1990s free of his addiction but relapsed in 2004. Near the end of his life, he returned to live performance as a front man and, returning to his blues roots, produced two albums that were critically well received and award-winning. Turner has frequently been referred to as a "great innovator" of rock and roll by contemporaries such as Little Richard and Johnny Otis. Phil Alexander (then editor-in-chief of Mojo magazine) described Turner as "the cornerstone of modern day rock 'n' roll".
Turner was born in Clarksdale, Mississippi, on November 5, 1931, to Beatrice Cushenberry (1909-195?), a seamstress, and Isaiah (or Izear) Luster Turner, a Baptist minister. The younger of their two children, Turner had an elder sister named Ethel May. Turner believed that he had been named after his father, but discovered his name had been mistakenly registered as Ike Wister Turner when applying for his first passport.
Turner said that when he was very young he witnessed his father beaten and left for dead by a white mob. His father lived for three years as an invalid in a tent in the family's yard before succumbing to his injuries. Writer and blues historian Ted Drozdowski told a different version of the story, stating that Turner's father died in an industrial accident. His mother then married a man called Philip Reeves. Turner said his stepfather was a violent alcoholic and that they often argued and fought. After one fight Turner knocked out his stepfather with a piece of wood. He then ran away to Memphis, where he lived rough for a few days before returning to his mother. He reconciled with his stepfather years later, buying a house for him in the 1950s around the time Turner's mother died.
Turner recounted how he was introduced to sex at the age of six by a middle-aged lady called Miss Boozie. Walking past her house to school, she would invite him to help feed her chickens and then take him to bed. This continued for some years. Turner claimed not to be traumatized by this, commenting that "in those days they didn't call it abuse, they called it fun". He was also raped by two other women before he was twelve.
|Oral History, Ike Turner shares moments of his life story and career. interview date December 1, 2005, NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) Oral History Library|
Around his eighth year Turner began frequenting the local Clarksdale radio station, WROX, located in the Alcazar Hotel in downtown Clarksdale. WROX was notable as one of the first radio stations to employ a black DJ, Early Wright, to play blues records. DJ John Frisella put Turner to work. Turner described this as "the beginning of my thing with music." Soon he was left to play records while the DJ went across the street for coffee. This led to Turner being offered a job by the station manager as the DJ on the late-afternoon shift. The job meant he had access to all the new releases. On his show he played a diverse range of music, playing Louis Jordan alongside early rockabilly records.
Turner was inspired to learn the piano on a visit to his friend Ernest Lane's house, where he heard Pinetop Perkins playing Lane's father's piano. Turner persuaded his mother to pay for piano lessons; however, he did not take to the formal style of playing, instead spending the money in a pool hall, then learning boogie-woogie from Perkins. He taught himself to play guitar by playing along to old blues records. At some point in the 1940s, Turner moved into Clarksdale's Riverside Hotel, run by Mrs. Z.L. Ratliff. The Riverside played host to touring musicians, including Sonny Boy Williamson II and Duke Ellington. Turner associated with many of these guests and played music with them.
In high school, Turner joined a local rhythm ensemble called the Tophatters who played dances around Clarksdale, Mississippi. Members of the band were Clarksdale musicians and included Turner's school friends Raymond Hill, Eugene Fox and Clayton Love. The Tophatters played big-band arrangements from sheet music. Turner, who was trained by ear and could not sight read, would learn the pieces by listening to a version on record at home, pretending to be reading the music during rehearsals. At one point, the Tophatters had over 30 members and eventually split into two, with one act who wanted to carry on playing dance band jazz calling themselves the Dukes of Swing and the other, led by Turner, becoming the Kings of Rhythm. Said Turner, "We wanted to play blues, boogie-woogie and Roy Brown, Jimmy Liggins, Roy Milton." Turner kept the name throughout his career, although it went through lineup changes over time. Their early stage performances consisted largely of covers of popular jukebox hits. B.B. King helped them to get a steady weekend gig and recommended them to Sam Phillips at Sun Studio. In the 1950s, Turner's group got regular airplay from live sessions on WROX-Am, and KFFA radio in Helena, Arkansas.
Around the time he was starting out with the Kings of Rhythm, Turner and Lane became unofficial roadies for blues singer Robert Nighthawk, who often played live on WROX. The pair played drums and piano on radio sessions and supported Nighthawk at blues dates around Clarksdale. Playing with Nighthawk allowed Turner to gig regularly and build up playing experience.
He provided backup for Sonny Boy Williamson II, playing gigs alongside other local blues artists such as Howlin' Wolf, Charley Booker, Elmore James, Muddy Waters and Little Walter. Performances typically lasted for about twelve hours, from early evening to dawn the next day. Turner described the scenario to an interviewer:
We played juke joints; we'd start playing at 8.00pm and wouldn't get off till 8.00am. No intermissions, no breaks. If you had to go to the restroom, well that's how I learned to play drums and guitar! When one had to go, someone had to take his place.
Around this time Turner and his band recorded the song "Rocket 88". Jackie Brenston, a saxophonist in the Kings of Rhythm, sang lead vocals. Turner played piano on the recording, and his intro was later used nearly note-for-note by Little Richard in "Good Golly Miss Molly". Phillips sold the recording to Chess in Chicago, who released it under the name "Jackie Brenston and His Delta Cats". The record sold approximately half a million copies. In Turner's account book, he recorded that he was paid $20 (US$189 in 2017 dollars).
The success of Rocket 88 caused tensions and ego clashes in the band, causing Brenston to leave to pursue a solo career, taking some of the original members with him. Turner, without a band and disappointed his hit record had not created more opportunities for him, disbanded the Kings of Rhythm for a few years.
After recording Rocket 88, Turner became a session musician and production assistant for Philips and the Bihari Brothers, commuting to Memphis from Clarksdale. He began by contributing piano to a B.B. King track, "You Know I Love You", which brought him to the attention of Modern Records' Joe Bihari, who requested Turner's services on another King track 3 O'Clock Blues. It became King's first hit.
Wishing to exploit Turner's Delta music connections, Bihari contracted him as a talent scout, paying him to find southern musicians who might be worth recording. Turner also wrote new material, which, unknown to him, the Bihari Brothers copyrighted under their own name. Turner estimated he "wrote 78 hit records for the Biharis." Artists Turner sourced for Modern included Bobby Bland, Howlin' Wolf and Rosco Gordon. He played piano on sessions with them and lesser-known artists such as the Prisonaires, Ben Burton Orchestra, Little Milton, Matt Cockrell and Dennis Binder.
Turner was contracted to the Bihari Brothers, but he continued to work for Phillips, where he was effectively the in-house producer. This sometimes created conflicts of interest. Turner cut two Howlin' Wolf tracks, "How Many More Years" and "Moanin' at Midnight," which Phillips sent to Chess. Turner then took Wolf across the state border, rerecorded the tracks without Phillips's or Chess's knowledge, and sent the results to Modern/RPM. Turner also attempted to poach Elmore James from Trumpet Records and record him for Modern. Trumpet found out and Modern had to cancel the record. However, James did eventually sign for Modern, with Turner playing piano on a James recording at Club Desire in Canton.
In 1956, Turner took a reformed version of the Kings of Rhythm north to St. Louis, including Kizart, Sims, O'Neal, Jessie Knight, Jr. and Turner's third wife, Annie Mae Wilson Turner, on piano and vocals. Turner moved over to playing guitar to accommodate Annie Mae, taking lessons from Willie Kizart to improve.
Turner maintained strict discipline, insisting they live in a large house with him so he could conduct early-morning rehearsals. Up until the age of 30, Turner was a teetotaler and had never taken drugs. He insisted all band members also adopt this policy and fired anyone he even suspected of breaking the rules. He also fined or physically assaulted band members if they played a wrong note and controlled everything from the arrangements down to the suits the band wore onstage. Starting off playing at a club called Kingsbury's in Madison, Illinois, within a year Turner had built up a full gig schedule, establishing his group as one of the most highly rated on the St. Louis club circuit, vying for popularity with their main competition, Sir John's Trio featuring Chuck Berry. The bands would play all-nighters in St. Louis, then cross the river to the clubs of East St. Louis, Illinois, and continue playing until dawn. In St. Louis for the first time, Turner was exposed to a developing white teenage audience who were excited by R&B. Turner played in St. Louis clubs including Club Imperial, which was popular with white teenagers, the Dynaflow, the Moonlight Lounge, Club Riviera and West End Walter's. In East St. Louis, his group played Kingsbury's, Club Manhattan and the Sportsman.
He befriended St. Louis R&B fan Bill Stevens, who in 1959 set up the short-lived record label Stevens financed by his father Fred. Turner released two singles on the Stevens label (#104 and #107) under the anagram, "Icky Renrut", as he was still under contract with Sun for several more months and did not want to cause friction with Phillips. He also contributed vocals and/or guitar on 5 additional Stevens singles: Johnny Wright (#101), Bobby Foster (#102 and #106), Chuck Wheeler (#103), and Little Cooper and the Drifters (#105). Additionally, Turner contributed vocals and/or guitar on numerous "lost" sessions that remained unreleased for decades. None of the Stevens singles had wide distribution when released and have since become collectible among vinyl record enthusiasts and deejays.
Also in 1959, Turner was charged with what he described as "interstate transportation of forged checks and conspiracy" and was forced to stand trial in St. Louis. At the first trial, the jury failed to reach a verdict, and at the retrial a year later, Turner was found not guilty.
In 1957, 16-year-old Anna Mae Bullock accompanied her sister Aillene to watch Ike Turner and the Kings of Rhythm at the Club Manhattan. Aillene was a barmaid at the club and was dating Turner's drummer, Eugene Washington. After seeing the band, Anna Mae asked to sing with the Kings of Rhythm, finally being given the chance to do so during an intermission. Impressed by her voice, Ike Turner invited her to join the band, giving her the stage name "Little Ann". In 1958, she sang background on Turner's song, "Box Top", for Tune Town Records, and also gave birth to band member Raymond Hill's son.
In March 1960, Turner used Anna Mae's voice on a recording of his self-penned song "A Fool in Love" to lay down a guide track for a male singer who did not attend the recording. He sent the recording to Sue Records in New York, where label owner Juggy Murray insisted on putting out the track with Bullock's vocal. Murray offered a $25,000 advance (US$206,805 in 2017 dollars) for the song, convinced it was a hit. Around the time of the recording, Anna Mae had been pursued by Raymond Hill to join his band and leave Turner's. When Ike Turner asked her to use his last name as an attempt to discourage Hill, Anna Mae took the offer. He then named her "Tina" because it rhymed with Sheena. He was inspired by Sheena, Queen of the Jungle to create the image "Tina Turner." Turner had the name trademarked so that in case she left, another singer could perform under the same name. In July 1960, "A Fool in Love" was released under the billing 'Ike & Tina Turner' and later became a national hit, selling a million copies and making the duo national stars. Turner added a backing girl group he renamed the Ikettes, and this also led to the first name change of the Kings of Rhythm as they began performing as the Ike & Tina Turner Revue. Robert Palmer writes, "There was never any doubt that Tina Turner was the star... the electrifying performer audiences came to see. Ike kept his own stage presence deliberately low-key, avoiding flamboyant moves and directing the band with underplayed, economical gestures. His songwriting, production and musical direction were geared toward showcasing Tina."
The duo produced five more substantial hit singles, including "Poor Fool", "I Idolize You" and a cover of the Joe Seneca track "It's Gonna Work Out Fine", which gave them their second million-seller and their first Grammy nomination. After the duo's deal with Sue ended in 1964, Turner moved the band around to different labels, looking for the best deal and between that year and 1969 they recorded on Sonja, Warner Bros./Loma, Modern/Kent, Cenco, Philles, Tangerine, Innis, Pompeii, Blue Thumb, Minit and A&M.Phil Spector sought out the duo to work with on 1965's "River Deep - Mountain High" but paid Turner $25,000 to have no creative input into the sessions. The song was not a success in the States, causing Spector's retreat from the music industry, but was a big hit in Europe, reaching No. 3 in the UK singles chart. This brought the duo to the attention of Mick Jagger, who in 1966 and in 1969, invited them to tour with and open for the Rolling Stones, bringing them to a wider audience outside of soul.
Other notable records the duo released were covers of Sly & the Family Stone's "I Want To Take You Higher" and Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Proud Mary", and the Tina Turner-penned "Nutbush City Limits".
The success of the Ike and Tina Turner Revue gave Turner the finances to create his own recording studio, the Los Angeles-based Bolic Sounds next door to his mansion in Inglewood. The studio name was a reference to Tina's maiden name, Bullock. Turner had two sixteen track studios built, a large one to rent out and a smaller one for his personal recordings. He fitted them out with state-of-the-art equipment, two 24-input 16-output mixing desks custom built by John Stephens and Daniel Flickinger, IBM mix memorizers, an early Eventide digital delay. The studios were opened for public hire in March 1972. Artists who recorded there included Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Duane Allman, Little Richard and Gayle McCormick.Frank Zappa recorded the Ruben and the Jets album For Real! as well as most of his own Overnite Sensation and Apostrophe (') LPs in 1973 and 1974. Ike and Tina's last hit, the Tina written Nutbush City Limits, was also recorded there.
In 1974, Turner was arrested for using illegal blue boxes at Bolic to make long-distance phone calls. At the time of the arrest, police officers spent several hours breaking through the studio's heavy security measures, as Ike worked feverishly inside trying to finish various recordings before being taken to jail. He was eventually cleared of the charges. After this the police began surveillance on the studio, believing that other illegal activities were taking place inside.
His partnership ended abruptly in 1976 with Tina leaving after the last in a series of violent altercations with Turner. According to his book, Ike had plans to leave United Artists Records for a five-year $150,000 deal with Cream Records. The deal was to be signed on July 6, 1976. On July 1, Ike and Tina were en route from Los Angeles to Dallas where the Revue had a gig at the Dallas Statler Hilton. They got into a fight during their ride to the hotel. Shortly after arriving at the hotel, Tina fled and later hid at a friend's house. On July 27, Tina sued for divorce on the grounds of irreconcilable differences. Ike claims that Tina initiated the fight by purposely irritating him so that she'd have a reason to break up with him before they were scheduled to sign a new 5-year contract upon their return from Dallas.
After the breakup, Turner struggled to find success as a solo artist. Holly Maxwell replaced Tina Turner on Turner's band from 1977 to 1985 and again for eight months in 1992. Maxwell reported a positive working relationship with Turner.
In 1980, a SWAT team raided Bolic Sound, finding a live hand grenade and seven grams of cocaine. Turner was convicted for cocaine possession and sentenced to thirty days in the L.A. county jail with three years probation. This was Turner's first conviction. In April 1981, he was arrested for shooting a 49-year-old newspaper delivery man whom he accused of being physically and verbally abusive to his then wife, Ann Thomas and of kicking his dog. Turner said he only fired a shot to scare him off and that the man had injured himself when he climbed over the fence to get away. A jury in 1982 found him not guilty of assault. By 1985, Turner's finances were in disarray and he owed the state of California $12,802 in back taxes (US$29,129 in 2017 dollars). He later settled his account. He had tried to sell Bolic Sound in 1980 to raise funds to avoid foreclosure, but the studio burned down in a fire in January 1981 on the day Turner was due to show it to a potential buyer. Turner was arrested again on Friday, June 21, 1985, and charged with conspiracy to sell $16,000 (US$36,406 in 2017 dollars) worth of cocaine, possession and maintaining a residence for selling or using a controlled substance. The police took $1,000 of rock cocaine from his North Hollywood apartment. Also arrested and charged with him were Eddie Coleman Jr., 32, of Altadena, a record producer, and Richard Lee Griffin, 35, of Los Angeles, a music company writer. Turner paid a $5,000 bond (US$11,377 in 2017 dollars) and was released. A further arrest came in 1986 for cocaine possession, concealed carry of a handgun and traffic violations. Turner was released on $2,671 bail (US$5,963 in 2017 dollars). In January 1987, he was arrested for trying to sell 10 ounces of cocaine to an undercover police officer. He pleaded guilty to conspiring to sell the drug and not guilty to other counts. On February 16, 1990, he was sentenced to four years in a California prison for cocaine possession. He was incarcerated at the minimum security California Men's Colony, San Luis Obispo. Turner completed 18 months of his sentence before being released on parole in September 1991. Larry Kamien, associate warden of the California Men's Colony, said Turner was a model inmate. In prison he became a trustee working in the library and saved up $13,000 by selling cigarettes, candy bars and coffee to other inmates. He played music with other inmates and wrote 15 new songs that he was planning to record when he was released.
In 1991, while he remained in prison, Ike and Tina Turner were inducted to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, which Spector accepted on their behalf. Released from prison, Turner said he was nervous about returning to performing, but had plans to return to the studio. He sold 20 unreleased Ike & Tina Turner recordings to independent label Esquire Records. In 1993 Salt-n-Pepa sampled his Ikettes hit "I'm Blue (The Gong Gong Song)" for their 1993 single Shoop. The track went to No. 4 in the Billboard Hot 100, earning him around half a million dollars in royalties. He rerecorded the song in a duet style with singer Billy Rogers. Produced by Rogers, the remake received favourable reviews. He also appeared on the song "Love Gravy" with Rick James on the album Chef Aid: The South Park Album, the soundtrack to the TV series South Park. Ike Turner also made an appearance on MADtv in 1997, episode #2.18
Turner credited Joe Louis Walker with encouraging him to return to his roots in blues music. Turner played guitar and assisted in production on Walker's 1997 album Great Guitars and toured internationally with him. Walker paid him $5,000 a night for six songs. The positive response to the tour encouraged Turner to reform the Kings of Rhythm, taking them on a US tour in 2001. The group headlined a showcase at South by Southwest and were hailed as one of the highlights of the conference. His new wife Jeanette was Ike's lead singer. Turner's work on the tour led to his recording and releasing the 2001 Grammy-nominated Here & Now album. In September 2003, the PBS documentary series Martin Scorsese's The Blues included interviews and performances by Turner. He was featured in the episodes "The Road to Memphis" and "Godfathers and Sons".
In 2005, Turner revealed he had been diagnosed with emphysema and in his last years was extremely weak, having to use an oxygen tank. His daughter Mia Turner said, "He was too weak from the emphysema to do anything. He'd go in the studio for a couple of minutes and play a couple of bars and say he had to go lay down." Despite his ill health, he appeared on the Gorillaz' album, Demon Days, playing piano on the track "Every Planet We Reach Is Dead". Turner also performed the track at the live show at the Manchester Opera House from November 1-5, 2005; his performance was released on the DVD "Demon Days: Live at the Manchester Opera House." Before his death, a collaboration between Turner and the rock band the Black Keys, was planned by Gorillaz's producer Danger Mouse in 2007. The Black Keys recorded tracks for Turner to work with. Although Turner does not appear on the album (Attack & Release), Pitchfork noted his influence in the production.
In the year before his death he was hospitalized several times after accidentally falling. After his death in December 2007 from a cocaine overdose, Turner's autopsy and toxicology report showed he was taking Seroquel at the time of his death. The medicine is most commonly used as treatment for bipolar disorder, Alzheimer's disease and schizophrenia. Ex-wife Audrey Madison claims Turner was bipolar and that she was helping him with his illness, a claim supported by Turner's personal assistant and caretaker, Falina Rasool. Rasool says she talked about his bipolar disorder with Turner many times and witnessed its effects:
I would come in the room and see him change like a lightbulb, switch on and switch off. I did ask him about it. He said he made a song about it "Bi Polar", last track on Rising With the Blues and we started laughing... He said, 'I know I'm bipolar.' He says, 'And I've been bipolar, but a lot of people is bipolar.'
However, Turner's daughter Mia Turner rejected this diagnosis, saying that the medication was unnecessary: "Daddy is not bipolar... He was so heavily medicated. He could hardly speak. He was double stepping and walking sideways." 
Turner grew up playing boogie woogie piano, which he learned from Pinetop Perkins. In his professional career, he originally worked in the style of 1950s R&B, or post-jump blues. Though primarily known as a guitarist, Turner began his career playing piano and personally considered it his main instrument. He decided he was not meant to be a frontman when at 12 years old he was coerced into giving a piano recital at high school. He found the experience terrifying and from then on preferred to be in the background, controlling every aspect of the music and choreography, but not being the focus of attention. At most times in the Ike & Tina Turner Revue he played with his back to the audience.Donald Fagen has written: "[T]alented as he was, there wasn't anything really supernatural about Ike's skills as a musician... What Ike excelled at was leadership: conceptualization, organization, and execution."
Turner's guitar style is distinguished by heavy use of the whammy bar to achieve a strong reverb-soaked vibrato, string bending, hammer-ons and triplets in his blues phrasing. Turner was an early adopter of the Fender Stratocaster electric guitar, buying one from O.K. Houk's Piano Co. store in Memphis the year of its release in 1954. Unaware that the guitar's tremolo arm could be used to subtle effect, Turner used it to play screaming, swooping and diving solos that predated artists such as Jimi Hendrix and Jeff Beck by a decade. In The Stratocaster Chronicles, Tom Wheeler writes that Turner's "inventive style is a classic example of an artist discovering the Stratocaster, adapting to its features and fashioning something remarkable." Turner himself said of his tremolo technique: "I thought it was to make the guitar scream--people got so excited when I used that thing." Dave Rubin wrote in Premier Guitar magazine:
All those years of playing piano and arranging taught him a considerable amount about harmony, as he could certainly navigate I-IV-V chord changes. Ike modestly terms what he does on the guitar as "tricks", but make no mistake, he attacked his axe with the conviction of a man who knew precisely what he wanted to hear come out of it.
In 1951, Turner's Kings of Rhythm recorded one of the first instances of use of amplifier distortion. Rocket 88 is notable amongst other things for Willie Kizart's distorted guitar sound. In February 2005, Fender manufactured a limited edition Ike Turner Tribute Stratocaster. The model has an alder body in Sonic Blue with an Ike Turner signature in gold ink on the body under the clear-coat, with a maple neck in a 1960s "C" shape with a rosewood fingerboard, with 21 vintage frets. It had three custom single coil 1960s Strat pickups. Only 100 specimens were made, retailing at $3,399.99.
Robert Palmer wrote, "perhaps he [Turner] played the behind-the-scenes Svengali too seamlessly for his own good. To the fans who bought the records and concert tickets, his contribution was practically invisible. With his creative work of the '50s largely forgotten and his more recent efforts overshadowed by Tina's larger-than-life presence, he was easily dismissed as a purely exploitative figure riding on his wife's coattails." However, to contemporaries and blues fans Turner's contribution to music was substantial. Johnny Otis said, "Ike Turner is a very important man in American music. The texture and flavor of R & B owe a lot to him. He defined how to put the Fender bass into that music. He was a great innovator." B.B. King was a great admirer of Turner, describing him as "The best bandleader I've ever seen". Turner was also a big influence on contemporary Little Richard, who said in the introduction to Turner's autobiography, "Before all these people Ike Turner was doing his thing. He is the innovator." Richard was inspired to learn to play the piano by Rocket 88 and borrowed the introduction for his hit Good Golly Miss Molly.
Phil Alexander, editor-in-chief of Mojo magazine, has credited Turner arrangements of blues standards as being an influence on 1960s British Invasion groups: "He proceeded to influence British rockers from the mid-1960s onwards. Without Ike you wouldn't have had the Stones and Zeppelin. People like that wouldn't have had the source material on which they drew."
Speaking of Turner's claim to have written one of the first rock 'n' roll records, broadcaster Paul Gambaccini said:
In musical terms [he was] very important. "Rocket 88" is one of the two records that can claim to be the first rock 'n' roll record, the other being "The Fat Man" by Fats Domino from 1949. But "Rocket 88" does have a couple of elements which "The Fat Man" did not. The wailing saxophone and that distorted electric guitar. It was number one in the rhythm and blues chart for five weeks, it is in the Grammy Hall of Fame and it was an indisputable claim to fame for Ike Turner... To critics he will be known as a great founder, unfortunately to the general public he will always be known as a brutal man... He was always on the road and he drove himself as well as punishing others.
Nigel Cawthorne--coauthor of Turner's autobiography--said:
Although there had been black rock 'n' rollers who had made it big already, they really only played to a white audience. Ike and Tina played to a mixed audience and he deliberately desegregated audiences in the southern states and he wouldn't play to any segregated audiences at all. Because he had such a big band and entourage he desegregated a lot of the hotels because the hotel chains wouldn't want to miss out on the money they would make from him touring the southern states.
Turner's songs began to be sampled by hip hop artists, most notably Salt-n-Pepa sampling I'm Blue for use in their 1994 hit "Shoop" and Jurassic 5 used "Getting Nasty" from A Black Man's Soul on the 1997 track Concrete Schoolyard. Main Source also sampled "Getting Nasty" on track "Snake Eyes" as well as Ike & Tina's "Bold Soul Sister" on "Just Hanging Out", both featured on their 1991 album Breaking Atoms. The track Funky Mule, also from A Black Man's Soul, has been sampled extensively by jungle DJs, with the drum introduction being a very popular break. It was sampled by producer Goldie for his 1994 hit "Inner City Life", in the same year by Krome & Time on "The License", and by Paradox in 2002 on track "Funky Mule".
In Tina Turner's autobiography, I, Tina, she described Ike's abusive behavior. He received intense, negative publicity that was exacerbated in 1993 by the release of the film adaptation What's Love Got to Do with It. The film rights to the book were acquired by Disney's Touchstone Pictures. Turner stated he had mistakenly signed papers waiving the right to sue Touchstone Pictures for his depiction after accepting a $50,000 payment in exchange for the right for them to depict him in any way they saw fit. Ike was played in the movie by Laurence Fishburne. Tina Turner, commenting on the historical accuracy of the film, said, "I would have liked then to have more truth, but according to Disney, they said it's impossible, the people would not have believed the truth." Phil Spector, speaking at Ike Turner's eulogy, called the film a "piece of trash". However, Robert Palmer noted that "Long before Tina Turner cast him as the devil incarnate ... that was Ike Turner's show business persona." In 2006, Vibe named the character of Ike Turner from What's Love Got To Do With It at number 4 in their list of the 20 best movie "bad guys".
After the release of the film and Turner's drug conviction, the fictionalized version of Turner from the movie was seized on by comedians, who reused it in sketches. On the 1990s sketch comedy show In Living Color, Turner was parodied by David Alan Grier. In one skit, he sang a parody of Tina's song "What's Love Got to Do with It", in which he sings proudly of his abusive personality. The video also parodies Tina's video: whereas in her video Tina walks around stopping couples who are fighting, Ike walks around to couples and gives the men weapons. He was portrayed on Saturday Night Lives Weekend Update by Tim Meadows in a pageboy wig. This incarnation of Turner is played as desperate, making verbally derisive remarks to Kevin Nealon, later trying to win back Kevin's "love" with gifts and a cake, and finally shoving Kevin's face into the cake. On the John Boy and Billy radio show, cast member Jeff Pillars regularly performed an impersonation of Turner in a segment called "Ax/Ask Ike". He offered advice on interpersonal relationships, which always resulted in him giving inappropriate and humorous advice. These sketches were collected in a 2008 comedy album Ike at the Mike.
In 1999, Turner's autobiography was published, entitled Taking Back My Name. It was written with Nigel Cawthorne with a foreword by Little Richard. In part, the memoir was a rebuttal of the public image presented of him in Tina Turner's memoir and the film.
Ike and Tina Turner were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1991, while Turner was in prison. Turner was nominated for a Grammy in 2002 for his album Here and Now. He was awarded with a Heroes Award from the Memphis charter of NARAS in 2004.
In 2006, he won his first solo Grammy in the Best Traditional Blues Album category for the album Risin' With the Blues, which was mixed at Future Sound Studios by Rene Van Verseveld. The album was also nominated in the 7th Annual Independent Music Awards for Blues Album of the year. Jerry D'Souza wrote of the album: "Turner has it all in the palm of his hand, his phrasing breathing life into the words. He still has the power to turn the blues into an unforgettable experience."
On August 5, 2010, Ike Turner was posthumously recognized by his Mississippi hometown. Clarksdale officials and music fans gathered to unveil two markers honoring Turner and his musical legacy. The unveilings coincided with the 23rd annual Sunflower River Blues and Gospel Festival, dedicated that year to "Rocket 88". Turner has also been recognized with a star on the St. Louis Walk of Fame.
He had seven children: sons Ike III and Michael (with Lorraine Taylor), Ronald/"Ronnie" (with Tina Turner) and daughters Mia (with Margaret Ann Thomas), Linda Trippeter and Twanna Melby. Tina's son Craig (fathered by saxophonist Raymond Hill) was adopted by Turner and therefore carries the Turner name. Mia Turner was conceived and born during Ike's marriage to Tina in the late 1960s. Since 2007, Ronnie was married to Afida Turner.
Turner was married at least eight times. He sometimes claimed to have been married 13 times. Turner's first marriage was to an Edna Dean Taylor from Ruleville, Mississippi, while in his teens. He then married Rosa Lee Sane. The marriage took place in West Memphis. In 1953, he married pianist and singer Bonnie Mae Wilson, who was part of the Kings of Rhythm, but after two years she left him for another man. After Bonnie, he became involved with Annie Mae Wilson, another pianist in the band, whom he married in the mid-1950s. His next marriage was to Lorraine Taylor, who had two sons with him.
The facts surrounding his "marriage" to Anna Mae Bullock (Tina Turner), including accusations of abuse, have been very publicly debated. Tina left the relationship after another violent argument on the way to a concert in 1976. Their divorce was finalized in 1978. In Tina's autobiography, she accused Ike of violent spousal abuse. In a 1985 interview, Turner admitted: "Yeah I hit her, but I didn't hit her more than the average guy beats his wife ... If she says I abused her, maybe I did." In his 1999 autobiography, he worded this slightly differently; "Sure, I've slapped Tina ... There have been times when I punched her to the ground without thinking. But I have never beat her." In a 1996 interview, Turner described their marriage saying: "As far as abusing my family or abusing her, sure - I have slapped her, she have slapped me, we just lived normal people's lives, but I guess by me having the notoriety that I have, it's been totally exaggerated."
Turner claimed on more than one occasion that he had never been officially married to Bullock. In a 1985 interview with Spin Magazine, Turner stated: "As God is my judge, of all my wives, Tina is the only one I was never legally married to." He stated that she took his name in order to discourage a former lover from returning to her. In his autobiography, Turner wrote "We didn't recognize marriages", which Margaret Moser believes "is true by the rural Southern standards of the times". In a 1996 radio interview, he repeated the claim that the two had never been married, and also claimed that Tina's name had originally been Martha Nell (not Anna Mae) Bullock.
Turner married former Ikette Margaret Ann Thomas in the early 1980s. In 1995, after years of courtship, he married St. Louis native singer Jeanette Bazzell. They divorced in 2000, but remained friends. On October 8, 2006, Turner married Audrey Madison in Las Vegas. They had met in 1993, she started as an Ikette before becoming the lead singer. He filed for divorce on December 22, 2006, but they reconciled before his death.
Turner claimed that he was first introduced to cocaine around 1960, when he was given some to try by "two very famous people I'd been working with in Las Vegas at the same hotel". By 1970, Turner was heavily addicted to the drug, buying it in large quantities. He claimed that, in the early seventies, he spent $56,000 a month (US$352,891 in 2017 dollars) buying cocaine (although not all for his personal use). In a 2001 interview with Caroline Graham of The Mail on Sunday, Turner estimated that he had spent $11 million on cocaine. In 1986, he acknowledged that he had been addicted to cocaine for 15 years. By 1974, his heavy usage meant he had worn a large hole through his nasal septum. This hole caused him pain, which he relieved with further use of cocaine. He then began freebasing crack cocaine. While in prison in 1991, Turner managed to break his dependency on cocaine. He remained clean for ten years, with the help of family members. However, in 2004, while trying to help rescue a crack addict acquaintance from his addiction, Turner entered a crack house, smelled cocaine fumes, and had a relapse.
In the weeks leading up to his death, Turner became reclusive. On December 10, 2007, he told personal assistant Falina Rasool that he believed he was dying and would not live until Christmas. As he predicted, Turner died two days later, on December 12, at the age of 76, at his home in San Marcos, California, near San Diego. He was found dead by his former wife Ann Thomas. Rasool was also in the house and administered CPR. Turner was pronounced dead at 11:38 a.m.
The funeral was held on December 22, 2007, at the City of Refuge Church in Gardena, California. Among those who spoke at the funeral were Little Richard, Solomon Burke and Phil Spector. The Kings of Rhythm played versions of "Rocket 88" and "Proud Mary". Turner was cremated after the funeral service.
On January 16, 2008, the San Diego County Medical Examiner's Office reported that Turner had died from a cocaine overdose. "The cause of death for Ike Turner is cocaine toxicity with other significant conditions, such as hypertensive cardiovascular disease and pulmonary emphysema", Supervising Medical Examiner Investigator Paul Parker told CNN. His daughter Mia was said to be surprised at the coroner's assessment, believing his advanced stage emphysema was a bigger factor.
On August 5, 2010, Turner was posthumously recognized by his Mississippi hometown. Clarksdale officials and music fans gathered to unveil two markers on the Mississippi Blues Trail in downtown Clarksdale honoring Turner and his musical legacy. On June 6, 2015, Turner was inducted into the Official Rhythm & Blues Music Hall of Fame in Clarksdale, Mississippi.
Credited as Ike Turner:
With Howlin' Wolf